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Sleep – The Shortest Step Between Hope and Despair

“Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.” (Shakespeare MacBeth)

We all know the value of a good night’s sleep and the torture of being deprived of one. Yet in our therapeutic work we often fail to either assess or address this fundamental difficulty. Authors, Novak and Gilles writing in the most recent edition of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy recognize this omission and address it in their paper A primer on sleep for MFTs: Implications and practical considerations. In reviewing the literature, they note the bidirectional link between sleep and relationships whereby poor sleep negatively impacts relationships and relationship difficulties disturb sleep. Specifically, ‘Disturbed sleep can encourage more negative daily appraisals and other-focused blame, and lead individuals to interpret actions, facial expression, and words more negatively’, having a detrimental effect on both couple and parent child relationships. The paper goes on to provide direct and practical advice about assessment of sleep difficulties and both individual and systemic intervention strategies including sleep education and sleep hygiene with reference to relational dynamics that may undermine sleep.

Bower(method) recognizes that good sleep is fundamental to successful individual and relational functioning, especially in child focused problems. Giving up sleeplessness is often the beginning point in therapeutic work and sometimes is the only intervention required.

Novak,J & Gillis, B. (2021) A primer on sleep for MFTs: Implications and practical considerations. Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy

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